TEMPTATIONS ON THE PINNACLE

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          TEMPTATIONS ON THE
              PINNACLE.
                                NO. 689

     DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, MAY 6TH, 1866,
                            BY C. H. SPURGEON,

    AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
   “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on
   a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of
   God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels
   charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up,
   lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto
   him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” -
   Matthew 4:5-7.
THE clearest and most important exposition of the revelation of God in the
inspired Book is the revelation of God in the renewed man. Every Christian
will discover, in proportion to his advances in divine knowledge, that the
very things which are written in these hallowed pages are written in his
own experience. We never fully understand divine truth until we have
experienced it; the diamond of divine promise never glistens so brightly as
when it is placed in the setting of personal trial and experience, and the
gold of sacred truth is not valued until it has been tried “so as by fire”.
Holy Scripture is full of narratives of temptations; expect, therefore,
Christian, that your life will be as abundantly garnished with them as is a
rose with thorns. Provision is made in the Word of God for the assaults of
Satan from all quarters and in all fashions; believe, therefore, most
confidently, that the wise provisions of forethought are not made in vain,
but will be needed in your own proper person. You will have to do battle
with those spiritual foes which have beset and buffeted other saints in days
gone by, and you will be wise to array yourself in those pieces of heavenly
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armor which proved to be so great a safeguard to them in their seasons of
warfare. This remark, that the Word of God is written out again in the life
of the Christian, is emphatically true in that part of it which concerns the
life of Jesus; for every Christian is the image of Christ, in proportion as he
is a Christian. In proportion as the Spirit sanctifies us, spirit, soul, and
body, and makes us like the Master, we are conformed to him, not only in
the holiness and spirituality which sanctification, produces, but also in our
experience of conflict, sorrow, agony, and triumph. In all points Jesus was
made like unto his brethren, and now it remains that in all things his
brethren should be made like to him. The Savior’s public life begins and
ends with temptation. It commences in the wilderness in a close contest
with Satanic craft, it ends in Gethsemane in a dreadful affray with the
powers of darkness. There are a few bright spots between, but the gloom
of the desert deepens into the midnight darkness of the cross, as if to show
to us that we also must begin with trial, and must reckon upon ending with
it. The victory of our Lord was won upon Golgotha in blood and wounds,
amid the blasphemous exultation of his foes, and the victory of the believer
will not be cheaply bought. Our crown is not to be won without wrestling
and overcoming. We must fight if we would reign, and through the same
conflicts, which brought the Savior to his crown, must we obtain the palm-
branch of everlasting victory. Be it so, O Master, only let us be prepared
for it, and by thy grace may we be strengthened, so that we may be more
than conquerors through him who hath loved us.
I shall this morning first of all take you, dear friends, to look at the
temptation itself as we have felt it; and then, secondly, I shall offer a few
considerations deduced therefrom.

I. First we are to VIEW THE TEMPTATION ITSELF.
The landscape is coloured by the glass through which the observer looks,
but still the landscape is really seen; and so in giving you this morning
much of that which I have myself been made to endure, I may color our
Lord’s trial, but you will see it notwithstanding, and the Holy Spirit will
show you what is really of Jesus, and what is only mine. Our trials are sent
us on purpose to make us comprehend our Lord’s trials, and especially is it
so with ministers of the gospel. Martin Luther was a mighty master in the
art of consolation, because there was scarcely a temptation, except that of
covetousness, which he had not experienced. Melancthon bears witness of
Luther that he was sometimes so tempted of the devil that he appeared to
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be at the point of death; the sap and strength of his life seemed to be dried
up, and his soul was full of heaviness. After such seasons he would so
preach that each of his hearers thought that he was speaking concerning
him alone and wondered whence his knowledge was derived. He learned
the art of spiritual navigation from having himself done business upon deep
waters of spiritual tribulation. Luther’s remark stands true, that prayer,
meditation, and temptation, are the three best instructors of the gospel
minister, and since I have been much of late in the last school, I cannot do
other than use what I have learned. Now it may be, while I am describing
this temptation of our Lord, or rather our own temptations as they are
conformed to the temptations of Jesus, that I may meet the peculiar case of
some troubled one who has been long in doubt and darkness, and who may
to-day find light and peace; if it be so the Spirit of God shall be glorified,
and it shall be to me a sweet recompence for those gloomy hours through
which I have lately groped my way.
I first call your attention to the place of this temptation. “Then the devil
taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the
temple.” It was a high place and a holy place, hence a double danger. It
was a high place: the temptation could not have acted upon the Savior had
he been sitting in the desert or kneeling in the garden; but aloft, above the
city, on the towering pinnacle, the foothold was slender, and the fall would
have been terrible. Beneath him lay a wondrous panorama, the courts of
the Lord’s house, the streets of the city, the towns and villages of Judea,
and the broad acres of Immanuel’s land; little, however, would he care for
all these, for his thoughts were concentrated upon the combat within; yet
the widened prospect must have added to the sense of elevation, and so
have aided the temptation. Brethren, it is very hard to stand in high places.
Those of you who are in humble positions of society may be very grateful
for the safety, which usually grows out of lowliness. No doubt you envy
those who are more known and more wealthy, but if you knew all, instead
of envying them you would thank God for the lot which is meted out to
you. I would be afraid to exchange my temptations with any other man,
and yet I know my own to be full more than I should be able to sustain
were it not for the grace of God and the promise, “My grace is sufficient
for thee.” It is hard to carry a full cup without spilling some of the
contents; when half full you may carry it more carelessly without a slip, but
when the golden chalice is full to the brim, beware, thou cup-bearer of the
King. You may walk along the plain, nay, you may leap like the children at
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their play, you may sport at random where you will, but up along you
narrow knifelike ridge, where awful precipices descend on either side, take
care, O traveler, for one slip may be fatal. Look beneath thee, through the
grim mist, which hides the depths below, and be deeply grateful for the
invisible and omnipotent hand, which has sustained thee until now.
The remark as to high places does not merely apply to really high places of
wealth, or influence, or fame, but to places high for us, coin paratively high
places of enjoyment and satisfaction. Nor must I exclude holy places from
the remark. The mountain may be Tabor, but it is a mountain still. If you
are called to the elevated position of one who dwells in rapt fellowship
with Christ, there are temptations peculiar even to that happy state of
mind. The pinnacle is none the less a pinnacle because it happens to be the
pinnacle of the temple; nay, let me here note, that it is even more
dangerous. The place was not only high but holy. Note how that is marked
in the text. He takes him to the holy city and to a pinnacle of the temple-
two words, as if to bring up vividly before the reader’s mind the sanctity of
the position. To stand in a high place, my brethren, in God’s house is very
desirable and very honorable, but oh. it is both responsible and perilous.
Let those beware whom God exalts in Israel. He of whom it is written that
it were better for that man that he had never been born was not less than an
apostle. He who kept the bag and was the intimate friend of Christ is that
man whose damnation surpasses all others in its flaming terrors. It is a very
delightful thing, no doubt, to minister to a large congregation, and to be
pastor of a numerous flock; it is a very good degree to earn to be an officer
of the Christian church; it is no small privilege to be permitted by the pen
or by the tongue to edify multitudes of saints; but alas, the high places even
of God’s temple are dizzy places, and lofty positions in the church are sites
where temptations attack us which would be unknown to us if in the
humble obscurity of a retiring piety we were to lie down in green pastures
and feed beside the still waters. After. all, if I might be allowed to envy
anybody it would be the position of John Bunyan’s Shepherd, singing, as
he feeds his flock in the valley:-
                     “He that is down need fear no fall,
                          He that is low no pride;
                       He that is humble ever shall
                        Have God to be his guide.”
What think you, brethren, were the temptations which came upon the
Savior on account of his position on the high and holy place? We
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frequently forget when we are speaking of the Savior that he was most
truly man. He was divine without mitigation of the royalty and splendor of
Deity; but he was man, altogether such as we are, so that he felt as you and
I would have felt in a similar condition. How then did he feel? Did he not
tremble with fear of falling? Standing there and looking down, I believe the
natural fear came over him that he must fall, and that falling, he would stain
the battlements of the consecrated place, and crimson the house of God
with his own blood. You will think me singular in imagining that the Savior
could be the subject of such feelings, but was he not a man, and what man
would feel otherwise? It is natural that a shivering emotion of dread should
creep over any one standing in so lofty and unprotected a position. Now
this is a temptation-a temptation to which God’s servants who are put
upon the pinnacle of the temple will find themselves frequently subject. But
is it a fault to be afraid of falling? Yes. No. It is no fault to be afraid of
falling, else the Savior would not have felt it; he was holy and consequently
no sinful emotion could cross his breast; but there is a something growing
out of the fear of falling which is very faulty, namely, the temptation to do
something desperate in order to escape from the position which is so full of
peril. It is right for me to be afraid of falling into sin; it is not right for me
either to mistrust God’s grace, which will sustain me, or to run to foolish
means in order to escape from the particular peril in which I happen to be
involved. Jesus did not doubt his Father’s care-he could not, for he was
perfect; but he did tremble because of the danger in which he was placed;
he must have done so, because he was a man of like passions with
ourselves. Now, brethren, may I picture some of you lifted up to such a
position? Either in wealth, or in honor, or in communion, or in some way,
you are lifted up into a sphere of danger, and you begin to say to yourself,
“Suppose I should fall! Oh, suppose I should disgrace my profession, and
bring dishonor upon the cause of Christ! What if my foot should slip, and I
should defile the church of God with the blood of my eternal ruin and of
my present disgrace.” I can understand that thought crossing your mind
without any sin being involved in it; nay, with even a good resolve
springing from it, namely, to walk humbly with your God; but I can
suppose it to be the fulcrum upon which Satan may plant his lever, and
begin to work so as to bring you into a very sadly weakened and wretched
state of mind. Oh brethren, when I see others falling from their pinnacles,
when I feel my own head grow dizzy, when I look down and see the ruin
that must come upon every man who apostatizes from the faith, when I
look up and see the holiness of God, and then look down and feel the
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attractions of the world enticing and drawing me down to destruction, I
can but tremble. I cannot do otherwise, and I cannot understand the man
who would not. If you are placed in such a position you must feel it, it is
not possible for you to escape from the fear lest, after all, after having been
honored and favored you should become a castaway.
This seems to me to be the reason why the devil put our Lord on the
pinnacle of the temple. The first effort of the devil was to sap the
foundations of the Savior’s strength with a doubt. The devil whispers to
him, “If-if thou be the Son of God.” Faith is the Christian’s strength; he
who doubts not staggers not. Unbelief is the source of our chief weakness.
As soon as we begin to distrust our feet begin to slide. Hence, Satan,
knowing this, injects that cruel and wicked suspicion, “If-if thou be the Son
of God.”
Notice the point of attack: it was our Lord’s son-ship. Satan knows that if
he can make any of us doubt our interest in the Father’s love, doubt our
regeneration and adoption, then he will have us very much in his power.
How can I pray, “Our Father which art in heaven,” if I do not know him to
be my Father? If the dark suspicion crosses my mind that I am no child of
his, I cannot say with the prodigal, “I will arise and go unto my Father,” for
I do not know that I have a Father to go to. Having a Father, I feel sure
that he will pity my infirmities, that he will feel for my wants, redress my
wrongs, protect me in the hour of danger, and succor me in the moment of
peril; but if, if I have no Father in heaven, if I be not his child, then,
miserable orphan! what shall I do-whither shall I flee? Standing on a
pinnacle as God’s child I shall stand there erect, though every wind should
seek to whirl me from my foothold; but if he be not my Father, and I am
upon a pinnacle, then my destruction is inevitable, and my ruin will be swift
and total. “If thou be the Son of God.” Oh, dear friends, beware of
unbelief; those who justify unbelief hold a candle to the devil. I cannot
suppose myself doing better service to an ill cause than by excusing you in
your unbelief of God, or excusing myself in it. God is faithful; why do we
doubt him? God is true; how can we suppose that he will be false? That we
are his children is also true, if we have believed in Jesus. If, having nothing,
I have cast myself at the foot of the cross; if, all guilty and defiled, I have
seen in Jesus Christ all that my soul can want, then I am one with Jesus,
and a joint heir with him. I must be the child of God, because I am one
with Christ Jesus, his only begotten and his well-beloved. Dear brethren, let
me exhort and stir you all up to seek after the full assurance of your son-
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ship with God the Father. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your
eyelids, unless you know that you are in the divine family. Remember that
doubts here are perilous to the last degree, and most of all perilous to those
of you who stand upon the pinnacle. Let those doubt who are in the valley
and they bring themselves sorrow, but those on the mountain must not
doubt, for it is by faith alone that they can stand, and where to slip will be
so destructive, they must take care that their faith be firm and strong. Thus
you see the Savior was first assailed with a malicious and cruel insinuation
of doubt. The cunning tempter has paved the way for the Satanic
suggestion “Cast thyself down.” That advice looks like the most absurd
thing that could be suggested. He is afraid of falling, and is therefore
hidden to throw himself down. Ah, but if you do not understand this, it is
because you are not acquainted with Satanic machinery. The human mind
oscillates very strangely. Though at first may be driven by main force from
left to right, it naturally swings to the left again, returning by sheer
necessity to the same point. There have been persons who have starved
themselves to death from the fear of being poor and destitute, and have
brought on disease by fearing disease. There have been instances of
persons who have sought to destroy themselves when condemned, because
they dreaded being hanged. What escape from death suicide can offer it
were hard to say, but some have tried it. In a position where I cannot
stand, the natural thing is to throw myself down directly. You are afraid as
you stand on the brink of the cliff, afraid that you may fall over, and all the
while a mad inclination to fall over may steal over you. It is strange, but
then we are strange creatures. Though it looks to you as if it would be a
very unlikely temptation to a man afraid of falling to say, Cast thyself
down, it is not unnatural, it is consistent with the well-known laws of
consciousness that we are often tempted to do the very thing which we are
afraid of doing, and to do it in order to escape from it; cast thyself down,
lest thou shouldst fall.
Let me just show you the shapes in which this temptation has come to
some of us. The minister of Christ is placed in a position where his labors
and his troubles are incessant. He is afraid with so much to do and such
delicate things to handle, that he may make a mistake, and injure the
church which he designs to bless. The dark suggestion crosses his mind,
“Give it up; leave the work;” that is to say, do the worst mischief that you
can do to the church, in order to prevent your doing it any mischief! The
same thing happens in business; you have been toiling hard to pay every
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man his own, to provide things honest in the sight of all men; you have
been able to do it until now; but things are, at this moment, very
unpropitious. Satan has whispered to many a tradesman, “Throw it up; get
out of it! Go somewhere else! Leave it, and flee the country.” Take another
case. You are a Christian, and you wish to be an honor to the Christian
church; but you live in a family where there is everything uncongenial to
your piety; you can scarcely get alone to pray, you certainly never hear a
good word from any others of the circle. You have been fighting for God
until now, and the enemy is at this moment saying, “Do not try it any
longer; renounce your profession; give it all up; go back to the world
again; “that is to say, in order that you may not dishonor Christ you are
tempted to dishonor him, and for fear lest you should fall, the whisper is,
“Fall at once.” It is strange, but strangely true! I thank God for the story of
Jonah; that miserable, morose old prophet has ever been a warning to some
of us. When God said to Jonah, “Go to Nineveh and preach!” “No,”
thought Jonah, “I cannot do it. How can I go and preach to such a city? It
will not be to my honor.” So away he goes to Tarshish. He little knew that
in trying to avoid trouble he was running into it. So it is also with us. You
want to go to Tarshish to get away from Babylon, that is, you run into the
depths of the sea to escape the rivers; you run into the fire to escape from
the frying-pan.
Should I happen to he addressing a Christian who is passing through this
terrible, severe, and fiery ordeal, I would point him to the Savior standing
on the pinnacle of the temple, with the suggestion, “Cast thyself down,”
and bid him imitate him in standing still fast and firm against the desperate
foe. “Stand fast in the Lord, and having done all, still stand.”
The suggestion to cast himself down was next backed up by a text of
Scripture,-wicked advice sustained by a foolish argument. “Cast thyself
down; because he has given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee.”
You notice he knocks out the words “in all thy ways,” which limits the
protection promised. The Lord never promises to keep us in ways of our
own choosing. If we go into Bye-path Meadow, we go there without a
guarantee of divine protection, for the Word has it, “in all thy ways.” Every
duty that is required of us, and every path that is mapped out by
Providence, shall have divine protection accorded to its travelers, but if we
go our own road, we have no promise that we shall be cared for. When the
devil takes something away from a text, he generally puts something of his
own in its place. He therefore added these words, “lest at any time.” His
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object was to make the text more general than it was-to take away its
specialities, to break down its hedges, and to remove its landmarks, and so
he says, “to keep thee, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
Old Master Trapp has well observed, that in his day the king was bound to
protect travelers on the king’s highway between certain hours, but, said he,
he did not promise to protect them out of the king’s highway, nor did he
promise to protect them in it if they traveled at all hours, for instance, at
the dead of night. So we have a promise that along the King’s highway to
heaven no lion shall be there, neither shall any ravenous beast go up
thereon, but the redeemed shall be found there; but if I strike off a path into
the wilderness, or go away into the jungle of my own superstition and my
own folly, I cannot expect protection, and if I begin to travel at any time,
choosing my own times instead of waiting for the pillar of cloud, then I am
not under the divine protection, nor can I expect it. Does the text, as you
find it in the ninety-first Psalm, give you any reason to believe that if you
throw yourself down from the pinnacle, God would bring you to the
bottom safely? Certainly not; a fair reading of it only shows that God will
keep us in the path of duty. And so, dear friends, let us, when Satan tells us
a Christian is all right and always safe, go where he may; let us respond to
that, that it is true the Christian is safe in the way of duty, and will be kept
in the path of God’s commands, but he that presumptuously runneth in the
teeth of God’s will, and disobeyeth the Most High, must look to it lest a
lion tear him in pieces. Brethren, it is a precious doctrine that the saints are
safe, but it is a damnable inference from it, that therefore they may live as
they list. It is a glorious truth that God will keep his people, but it is an
abominable falsehood that sin will do them no harm. Remember that God
gives us liberty, not licence, and while he gives us protection he will not
allow us presumption. I did know a person once when I was a child, I
remember seeing him go into a country wake in a little village where I
lived, though he was a professed Christian, going to spend the evening in a
dancing booth, and with others drinking as other men did, and when I in
my warm zeal said to him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” his reply was,
“I am a child of God, and I can go where I like and yet be safe,” and
though for the moment I knew not what text to quote to answer him, yet
my soul revolted from the man ever afterwards, for I felt that no child of
God would ever be so wicked as to take poison in the faith that his Father
would give him the antidote, or thrust himself into the fire, in the hope that
he should not be burned. If God sends me trouble he will yield me
deliverance from it, but if I make trouble myself I must bear it. If
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Providence permits the devil to set me upon a pinnacle, even then God will
help me, but if I throw myself down, and go in the very teeth of
Providence, then woe unto me, for I give proof by my presumption that the
grace of God is not in me at all. Yet the temptation is not uncommon. Do
such and such a thing; your eternal interests are safe, therefore shun God’s
service, throw up the reins, and let the horses go as they will, God will
guide them, do not touch the tiller, the God of the wind will manage the
vessel, do not put your shoulder to the wheel at all, but cry out to God to
help you, and sit down and be lazy. That is the devil’s talk, and our poor
silly distracted minds too readily drink it in; but if God gives us grace, we
shall say, “God helps those who help themselves; God works for those that
work for him, and in the name of God, I set up my banner; wherever he
will call me I will go, though it be through floods and flames; and if he set
me upon the pinnacle of the temple, I will do nothing but stand there till he
takes me down, but as to throwing myself down in order to escape, O my
Father, my God, by the love thou bearest me, help me to wrestle with this
temptation, and make me more than a conqueror through thy dear Son.”
Only one thing more remains to be spoken of while upon the text itself, and
that is the answer, which the Savior gave. He said, “It is written, Thou
shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” I noticed when I was carefully reading
this verse over and thinking of it, that Jesus met a promise misused with a
precept properly applied. At that moment the precept was worth more to
Christ than the promise. Beloved, there are certain people who love the
promise-part of God’s Word, but cannot bear the precept. We have men
among us who when the minister preaches upon a sweet text are greatly
delighted, that is savoury meat such as their soul loveth; but if the pastor
expounds a precept of God’s Word, they turn upon their heel
superciliously and say, “He is a legal preacher.” It is not safe to pick and
choose in the matters of divine truth. All hail, ye fair promises! Ye meet me
as the angels met Jacob at Mahanaim; but all hail, fair precepts! Ye meet
me as Nathan met David, and rebuke me for my sins. Ye also are my
friends, and I salute you and am glad to bear you company. Brethren, we
cannot do without a promise, precept, exhortation, and rebuke; the
compound of the Scripture, like the powders of the merchants for
sweetness and excellence, must not be injured by being robbed of one
single ingredient, Love the precept, I pray you; be of the mind of David,
who wrote the whole of the one hundredth and nineteenth Psalm, not so
much in praise of the promises as in praise of the statutes and the laws of
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God, as he found them given in that part of the Old Testament, which it
was his privilege to read. Sometimes a precept is the necessary
counteracting principle to guard us from the perversion of a promise.
Promises alone are like sweetmeats given to children which when too
profusely eaten bring on sickness, but the precept comes in as a healthy
tonic, so that you may feed upon the promise without injury.
Brethren, is there one of you who is so false and faithless as to desire to
shun God’s service and God’s love? Hear this: “Thou shalt not tempt the
Lord thy God.” You do so; you do tempt God; you tempt him to sanction
your sin when you use wrong means in order to escape from danger. A
Christian man in business, who is going to stoop to a transaction that is not
altogether clean, in order to escape from his present pecuniary dilemma, is
tempting God, for he asks God to help him, and then uses evil tools to
effect escape. Will you tempt God to assist you in defrauding your
neighbor? Dare you ask God to aid you in doing what is not strictly
upright? Do not dare to do this. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
The Christian worker, who dares to run away from work, and says, “God
will take care of me,” what is he doing? He is asking God one of two
things, either to destroy him, which God will not do, for he is a faithful
God; or he is tempting him to uphold him and comfort him when he is not
in the path of duty, which it would be wrong for God to do, since he
cannot give the sweetness of his comfort and the joy of his countenance to
a man who would thereby be countenanced and encouraged in sin. Beware
of provoking God to jealousy. Do let your walk be such that the Lord may
be honored thereby, and may look down with complacency upon you. Do
not run to such shifts as would involve your asking God to assist you in a
wrong thing in order to effect your deliverance. Though there be great
depths beneath you, you cannot fall while he upholds. Though others are
dashed in pieces and you can hear the crash of their fearful fall, yet he
upholdeth the righteous. Though your own brain turns giddy, and you are
ready to slip from your foothold, yet the eternal God is your refuge, and
underneath you are the everlasting arms; your extremity of weakness shall
be the opportunity of his power, and when you fall back faint and ready to
die, then it is that the angelic wings shall be of service, and the cherub-
helpers shall bear you up in their arms, lest you dash your foot against a
stone. Only be thou very courageous and confident, and say thou unto the
fiend of hell, “Get thee hence, for the God who allowed me to be placed
here never did forsake me and never will, and while he is for me I will not
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fear.” What may occur is no business of mine, it rests with him; it is mine
to stand in the path of duty, for thus I shall be in the place of safety.

II. I have said thus much upon the temptation itself, and now in closing I
wish to offer A FEW CONSIDERATIONS DEDUCED FROM THE WHOLE.
The first is this. It is a common-place thought, but it has tasted like nectar
to my weary heart. Jesus was tempted as I am. You have heard that truth a
thousand times: have you grasped it? He was not exempted from any of
even the sinful temptations, which occur to us. He was tempted to the very
same sins into which we fall. Do not dissociate Jesus from yourself. It is a
dark room, which you are going through, but Jesus went through it before.
It is a sharp fight, which you are waging, but Jesus has stood foot to foot
with the same enemy. It was’ a great encouragement to the Macedonians in
their weary marches when they saw Alexander toiling always with them.
Had Alexander always been riding on Bucephalus when the rest of them
were marching they would have grown weary, but Alexander marched like
a common soldier, and when water was scarce Alexander thirsted with
them, and refused to drink of the little water, which was reserved as a royal
luxury. “No,” said he, “I will suffer with my men.” They won their battles,
and they drove the Persian rabble before them as lions drive a herd of
sheep, principally through the personal prowess of Alexander. First to leap
into the ditch, first to cross the river or scale the rampart, always
adventuring himself for death or glory; every man grew into a hero at the
sight of the hero. Let it be so with followers of Jesus. He stays not in the
pavilion when his children are in conflict, he robes not himself in scarlet
apparel like a king at his ease, but he buckles on his armor and puts on his
helmet, and above the cry of them that contend for mastery may be heard
his cry, “I have trodden down strength.” Jesus goes so far into the fight
‘that he advances beyond the front rank, and can say, “I have trodden the
wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me.” Oh
comrades! let us be of good cheer, Christ has trodden the way before us,
and the blood-bedabbled footsteps of the King of glory may be seen along
the road which we traverse at this hour.
There is something sweeter yet,-Jesus was tempted, but Jesus never sinned.
Then, my soul, it is not needful for thee to sin, for Jesus was a man, and if
one man endured these temptations and sinned not, then by the same grace
another may do so. I know it seems to some of you beginners in the divine
life, that you cannot be tempted without sinning, but believe me, this is not
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only possible, but I hope attainable by you. A man may be tempted to run
away from the service of God’, but be may hate the temptation, and then
there is no sin in it to him. If I should meet a thief on the road home to-day
who should ask me to break into a person’s house, I should at once scout
the suggestion: do you think I should sin because I happened to be tempted
in that way? Not at all! The sin would lay with the tempter, not with the
tempted person who instantaneously rejected the suggestion. If I were to
dally with the thief, and say, “How much is to be gained by it? What are
your plans? I will go with you if so and so,” then I sin, but if I say at once,
“How dare you come to me with such a temptation? I loath it;” ‘then I
should commit no sin. Often, God’s servants in their worst and bitterest
temptations, are to a great extent free from sin and are to be pitied-not to
be blamed. John Bunyan has a famous picture of Christian going through
the Valley of the Shadow of Death, when the fiends whispered temptations
in his ears. “So,” said he, “I did verily think that these were in my own
heart,” whereas they were only temptations of the devil, and not his own;
and whereas he hated them, there was no sin in them-to him I mean. Of
course, there was sin to the person who made the suggestion, but not to
the person suffering it, inasmuch as he stopped his ears against it, and
refused to touch it. Now, Christian, in this you may be encouraged, that
you may go through the fiercest possible temptation heated seven times
hotter, like Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, and yet the fire may not injure you,
but you may come out with not so much as the smell of fire upon you,
though you have trodden in the midst of the glowing coals.
The third thing, which comforts us, is this, that Jesus not only did not fall,
but he gloriously triumphed. Satan received a desperate fall and a deep
discouragement as the result of this conflict, and as he overcame, so may
we. Jesus is the representative man for his people; the head has triumphed,
and the members share in the victory. While a man’s head is above the
water you cannot drown his body. The head is above the great water-
floods of temptation, and we, who are the lower members, are not
drowned, nor shall we be; we shall wade through the swelling current, and
land safely upon Canaan’s side. “They feared as they entered into the
cloud,” it is said of the disciples on the Mount, but their Master was with
them there, and therefore their fears were frivolous. We, too, are fearing,
because we have entered the cloud or are in the midst of it, but our fears
are needless and vain, for Christ is with us, armed for our defense.
Brethren, our place of safety is the bosom of the Savior. Perhaps we are
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tempted just now, in order to drive us nearer to him. Blessed be any wind
that blows me into the port of my Savior’s love! Happy, happy, happy
wounds, which make me, seek the beloved Physician; yea, blessed death,
which with black wings shall bear me up to my Savior’s throne. Anything is
good that brings us to Christ; anything is mischievous that parts us from
him. Come, ye tempted, wheresoever ye wander, come to your tempted
Savior; come, ye cast-down and. troubled ones, however much dismayed,
come to him.
                    “Though now he reigns exalted high
                        His love is still as great.”
He forgets not the temptations through which he passed, and he is ready to
succor and to help you in the same. Ah, but there are some here who do
not know him, some who say, “We do not understand this sermon, for we
never feel such temptations.” I can understand why not. You see you have
no spiritual life. The tree planted by the river feels not the ague which
breeds in the fen and lurks in the morass; but put a man there and you will
see him shivering from head to foot ere long; and the carnal mind, dead in
sin, knows not the miasma of temptation which lurks around him; but oh, if
you were alive unto God your struggle would begin, and you would cry to
the strong for help. My advice to you is that which I gave to the Christian
just now: the believer must go to Christ for help, and so must you. There is
balm in Gilead; there is a Physician there. Sinner, if thou lookest to Christ
thou shalt live. Though thou stand to-day upon the pinnacle, for life is
such, though death be thy dreadful fate, and the fiery lake be thine
everlasting portion, presume not, dash not thyself further into sin, plunge
not into ruin, but lift thine eye upwards and say, “My God, my Father, help
me; thou God, the Son who didst redeem with precious blood, wash me
from my sin; thou Spirit of the living God, renew me in heart and life,” and
it shall be done, for “he that asketh receiveth, he that seeketh findeth, and
to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
and thou shalt be saved.”

				
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